Travel: Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts - Why does holidaying in the Alps affect my eyes?

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The Independent Travel
Every time I go to the Alps (staying in hotels), when I wake up in the morning my eyes are puffy, with bags under the lower lid, which remain swollen and watering for the rest of the day. I look such a wreck. Why doesn't this happen when I go on holiday in the Mediterranean?

Mrs J Deeley


Dr Larry Goodyer replies: Without knowing the details of your holidays to Austria and Switzerland, there are a few possible causes for your symptoms.

Assuming that you are on skiing holidays in the winter to these destinations, it may be that your eyes are particularly sensitive to the greater levels of UltraViolet radiation that may be present at high altitudes. This type of snow blindness can lead to the eye problems that you describe, including irritated and puffy eyes. The answer here is to make sure that you are wearing good sunglasses/goggles when you venture out during the day.

A more mundane answer may be that the type of air-conditioning or heating systems that you encounter in the hotels simply dry your eyes out. If you think that this may be the cause then try purchasing some "artificial tear" eye drops from a pharmacy. Whatever the cause ,you may find that using these preparations alleviates the symptoms.

If you are visiting during the spring, then an allergic conjunctivitis (hayfever) may be the cause. The type of pollens encountered in the alpine regions may cause an allergy in your case whereas you may not be affected by those in the Mediterranean or even in the UK. Are you normally prone to hayfever or allergies? If so then this may be a cause and again you can purchase anti-allergic drops which are available in various forms.

As a general rule I usually advise people who are prone to hayfever to carry the necessary treatment when travelling overseas. It is very difficult to predict when you may encounter a type of pollen that causes symptoms. The same advice could be given to asthmatics who should always carry their medication.

Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8, Tel: 0181-889 7014) which specialises in catering for travellers' medical needs.

I want to fly to Australia but my back won't stand it

I would like to travel to Australia this summer to visit my daughter. However, I have chronic back trouble, and know that 24 hours in a standard airline seat would not be possible. I need to be able to lie down flat every three hours or so. Do any airlines offer any options for disabled passengers? I am registered disabled but do not have any mobility problems.

Janet Renshaw

Leamington Spa

The travel editor replies: Unfortunately airlines cannot provide space for you to lie down flat in economy class (on certain airlines you can lie flat in first class, but the cost will be prohibitive for ordinary travellers).

Air New Zealand, which flies from Britain to Australia with only one stop (in Los Angeles) informs me that one solution it can provide is a stretcher that is positioned on top of the seats and surrounded by a curtain for privacy.

The disadvantages of this, however, would be first, that you would have to lie in it for the duration of the flight and second, that it would be extremely expensive - three times the normal adult fare, in fact. You would also need to be accompanied. And you would not even enjoy the normal style and comfort offered by first class!

It would certainly end up far cheaper (if much slower) to book a flight with lots of stopovers on the way - the kind of flight that most people try to avoid. If you stopped in, for example, Athens, Dubai, Bombay, Singapore and Darwin, you would avoid stretches of more than about three or four hours. Flight bookers like Trailfinders (0171-938 3366) will certainly be able to come up with a suitable combination of stops.

My flight was cancelled - who should pay?

Last month I was flying to Prague on the day of the fire at Heathrow Airport. Our flights with British Midland were cancelled and, in order not to lose our holiday, we had to find flights with another airline at short notice. We made it onto a CSA flight, though these tickets cost pounds 70 more each than the refund which we received from British Midland. When we asked our insurance company to pay out for this, they said they were not liable. How can this be?

Lucy Bishop

Golders Green

The travel editor replies: Technically, your insurers are right. Your contract is with that airline (who have their own insurance). If your flight is cancelled, it has the responsibility to get you to your destination at no extra cost, or to refund you in full.

Where your right to claim on the insurance kicks in is where you have to forfeit your holiday because of a cancelled flight. In most policies there is a clause stating that you become entitled to cancel your holiday and claim the costs of that loss from your insurers, once you have been delayed for 24 hours. In your case, however, you chose to continue with your holiday by buying another ticket.

Although you are not entitled to claim the pounds 70, some underwriters might look with favour on your claim given that you had saved them from having to pay for your entire holiday.